EDMOND — Spoken with certainty, as if explaining Oak Tree National’s mission statement, co-owner Everett Dobson succinctly laid out the goal of the golf club.
“We’re in the business of hosting major championships,” Dobson said.
Not just senior championships, like the U.S. Senior Open, which calls Oak Tree home this week. Dobson, co-owner Ed Evans and their team have sights on the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup and other world-class events that draw the best men, women and senior players in the game.
“We think this is a venue that is second-to-none in terms of being able to challenge the best players in the world,” Dobson said. “We certainly know, especially after this week, that the city of Edmond, the city of Oklahoma City, the state of Oklahoma will endorse and embrace this kind of event. Our corporate sponsorships, I think, are going to be in the top 2-3 of all time for a U.S. Senior Open.”
In the past, it had been questioned as to whether the course could play long enough to host a major tournament for PGA players, because of space limitations on the property. The course will play between 7,000-7,250 yards this week. But yardage has not been a concern in discussions with the USGA.
“Absolutely not,” Dobson said. “We’re going to play it at over 7,000 yards. We can go back to 7,400 or 7,500 yards, so length is not an issue with this golf course. And it’s not necessarily a long-hitter’s golf course. It’s thought of as a shot-maker’s golf course.”
When Dobson and Evans bought the course in 2008, they immediately began working on a redesign that shrunk the greens back down to the size of their original Pete Dye design. And new tee boxes — the longest of which won’t be used on multiple holes this week — brought extra yardage.
“There are tees out there that are too far back for us and would be long for the PGA guys,” said Champions Tour player Jay Haas, whose son, Bill, is on the PGA Tour. “It’s a heck of a golf course. They could narrow it up and get the rough up. I think, legitimately, this course has a chance to host an event like a U.S. Open.”
The initial concern from the hosting perspective is the space for the infrastructure of such a large event, which includes everything from television production to fan amenities. Getting fans easily in and out of the course would also have to be examined.
That could require widening roads around the course from two lanes to four, as was done on Kelly Ave. to the south of Oak Tree National.
Among other types of events Oak Tree National would be interested in pursuing include international team competitions, like the Ryder Cup and Curtis Cup, or major championships on the LPGA and Champions tours. Top amateur events like the U.S Amateur or Walker Cup are also on the radar.
Still, an event like the U.S. Open would be the top prize.
“We will not go in the direction of hosting an annual PGA Tour event,” Dobson said. “But that said, the PGA Tour has their year-ending events, the FedEx Cup, so that’s certainly a possibility in the future. The golf world has a lot of special events that are very unique and prestigious, so that’s the kind of events we go after.
“In terms of capabilities, there’s no question in my mind that the golf course is capable, the community is capable and the state of Oklahoma is capable of hosting an event like the U.S. Open.”
Currently, the U.S. Open courses have been selected through 2021, and the PGA Championship sites are set into the 2020s as well, so Oak Tree National would be looking nearly a decade away for hosting such an event.
Is such a pursuit more dream than realistic opportunity? Maybe. But Evans and Dobson are prepared to make the effort to find out.
“There are a lot of people that say it may not be a possibility, and that’s fine. We understand it. A U.S. Open is very difficult to get,” Evans said. “The USGA has a set of criteria that we may or may not fit into. We’re going to keep working and talking to the various golf bodies.
“We’re going to put on the best show we can, and bring the best championships into the state that we can.”